600 block of Merchant Street
circa early 1950s
When I lived in Ambridge and was going shopping on Merchant Street, I went "downstreet." What a curious term. Yet, it didn't seem odd to me, as everyone I knew went "downstreet" to shop in Ambridge. It was only after I moved away, never used "downstreet" again, and never heard "downstreet" used anywhere else, that I realized how unique "going downstreet" is.
When we said we were going "downstreet," we meant we were going to places like the 600 block of Merchant St. shown in the postcard above.
Growing up in Ambridge, I had assumed that "downstreet" was simply a way of distinguishing a shopping trip to Merchant Street from one in Pittsburgh. Because in addition to shopping "downstreet," we also went "downtown"--into Pittsburgh.
Perhaps "going downstreet" is just a shortened version of "going down to Merchant Street."
On the other hand, maybe the "down" in "downstreet" refers to direction, since some people who grew up on Park Road, to the west of Merchant Street, have told me they went "upstreet" to Merchant. While the numbered streets in Ambridge run west to east and cross Merchant Street rather than run parallel to it, the building numbers go "up" as you go from Park Road to Merchant Street.
Or maybe the "down" in "downstreet" simply reflects the reality of living in Ambridge. If you go to Merchant Street from most of Ambridge, you go "down." As in "downhill."
But then, folks who lived on Park Road, which was between the Ohio River and Merchant Street, who said "upstreet" didn't need to go "uphill" very much to get to Merchant Street, as Park Road isn't much lower than Merchant Street, especially compared to streets uphill from Merchant. But I'll grant that Merchant Street is "up" from even Park Road as opposed to going "down" to the river.
I thought perhaps that "downstreet" was unique to Ambridge until someone pointed me to the "Pittsburghese" website. Is "downstreet" used in Pittsburgh? If so, is their "downstreet" also "downtown"? Or is "downstreet" primarily a Beaver Valley/Beaver County expression?